This post is a part of the Take Another Stab series, where the horror films I hate get a chance at redemption through an open-minded revisit. There will be blood. There will be spoilers.
I was hesitant to charge into Italian territory for this series, for I’m not the most informed viewer. I’ve dabbled in some stereotypical giallo flicks, like Argento’s mainstream offerings. But it’s sensual, dark, and deliciously-lit films like Blood and Black Lace, Black Sabbath, and The Whip and the Body that I gladly flirt with. Yes, those are all directed by Mario Bava. Bava slaps. But today is about a different Bava. The entire plot of Demons was extremely murky to me yesterday. I recalled a movie theater and the hilariously funky music one can expect during chase scenes. Like Phantasm, I can’t soundly say I ever finished it in one go. I’m still trying to give a name to this mysterious disinterest I had in certain horror films. If I consult my imaginary checklist of things that sound like typical me, Demons should have gotten a mark. The bright yellow typeface on the poster would draw in anybody. The promise of demons in a small, enclosed space sounds exciting on paper. Alas, it gave me zilch in the excited department. Perhaps I wasn’t keen on foreign horror as a young teenager. It could be that this intimidation I feel about Italian horror spawned all those years ago and has slowly waned. I recall my oldest brother gleefully describing Demons to me some time ago in the midst of a film conversation. His brief summary didn’t exactly inspire a new curiosity in me and in that moment, I was satisfied never watching the damn thing again. Yet, here we are. A lot has changed between then and now, my tastes no exception. Unlike some other films I’m BEYOND dreading (ahem, House By the Cemetery), I wasn’t being a crybaby about this viewing. Call it bravery or call it that suppressed curiosity coming to light, but I’m down to clown with Demons today.
About one hour and 28 minutes later
Was anybody going to tell me that the soundtrack for this shit rules? As a lifelong 80’s music nut, I was cheesed to see those opening credits list Rick Springfield, Motley Crue, and Billy Idol. Not that I’m hardcore into those dudes but hey, the 80’s! That certainly helped set the tone and my expectations. The beginning was actually pretty fun. We have that funky-as-hell music guiding us through the first chase scene (“don’t worry,” I said to myself, “it’ll be back later”) and now I’m in it to win it. I enjoyed seeing the different types of style represented in the cast. We have preps, punks, suits, jocks, and straight up glamazons all mingling to watch this mystery screening in a seedy cinema. I instantly fell in love with Geretta Geretta, who plays the unlucky Rosemary. Her presence on screen was short but thoroughly enjoyed. The premise of Demons finally clicked after the characters were seated. This is a movie within a movie. Duh, me. My brain must be protecting me from something, some devastating moment in this film that it thought was best to forget. Then it gets even better! Once the possessions start, it’s a sloppy, oozy horrorfest. The demon makeup is spot-on. I dug the contact lenses and the throbbing green pustules on each character. The entire sequence with the teeth falling out and the nails bursting through flesh was wildly satisfying. Pretty much every kill delivered the “goods” and I marveled at the blood and slime. The woman getting her scalp pulled off? The couple kissing and getting roped closer together? Bello. I lost track of the time. I got sucked in far enough to be distracted from the storyline. After this main segment of violence, I settled back against my seat and focused.
Despite my efforts, I got bored. After they tried to destroy the projection room, the barricading started. What could have been filled with so much more action became a lull. I sat there watching these characters take way too long to find a way out. Like, a really long time. My eyes started to droop until the cokeheads showed up. Watching these greasy fucks snort out of a straw and Coke can was the laugh I needed to perk me up. I won’t lie to you. My interest started to waver after these guys found shelter in the impenetrable theater. I get it, the joint is evil and has a mind of its own. But that’s asking me to believe way too much when the drama is fizzling. Then it hit me. This just turned into a fucking zombie movie. Barricading? Strangers becoming alliances, friends losing friends? And a horde of “demons” rising from the horizon with their glowing eyes and blue lighting? I had been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! The last hurray in my mind was Kathy becoming infected and the demon crawling out of her cadaver. Sure, I felt bad for Ken when he got the bug, but it was a mad dash after that. I was too stuck on the fact that this had morphed into a run-of-the-mill zombie flick. The ending? Oh, god. The last two survivors being rescued by armed people with a vehicle and driving away from a burning city made me keel over. What a buzzkill.
I hate 99% of zombie movies, so how in the hell did I fall into this trap? Was it a simple word swap? I sure as shit wouldn’t have touched this had it been called Zombies. Could that have been the point? I can’t rightly say. All I know is that I loved the first act. Music, action, SFX, the premise, all that jazz. The second half had me snoozing. It rallied a bit towards the ending, but meh. It could be that I’ve seen this storyline too many times to be invested. I won’t call Demons a total loss. I expanded my breadth and I had a good time, even if it wasn’t for the whole shebang. I’ll say it aloud (figuratively): I don’t hate it. What do you think? Would you call this a cloaked zombie flick? Or do I have issues that need sorting out?
Until next time, thanks for taking another stab with me